Tebow, No. 1 Florida silence Death Valley and beat No. 4 LSU 13-3By By Ralph D. Russo, AP
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Tebow, Florida leave LSU dazed 13-3
BATON ROUGE, La. — Tim Tebow scrambled away from the rush, cut back to the middle of the field and finished the run by lowering a shoulder into a defender.
And with that 8-yard gain in the second quarter, Tebow looked like his old self again.
Two weeks after suffering a concussion, Florida’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback — with plenty of help from the top-ranked Gators’ swarming defense — silenced the largest crowd in the history of Tiger Stadium with a 13-3 victory against No. 4 LSU on Saturday night.
The day began with Tebow’s status uncertain for what was billed as the defending national champions’ toughest regular-season test.
By the time it was over, Tebow had thrown a touchdown pass and All-American linebacker Brandon Spikes had 2½ of Florida’s five sacks of Jordan Jefferson.
“I tried to play smart,” Tebow said. “I told him, I said, when we were talking to Coach (Urban) Meyer, I said, ‘I’m not going to go out there and play tentative or scared. That’s not me.
“I did try to play smart but I wasn’t scared or timid at all.”
Most of the 93,129 fans who partied all day and roared like a jet engine after kickoff were heading for the exits with 2½ minutes left — quiet, dejected and probably a bit dazed.
“This place is one of my favorite stadiums to play in,” Tebow said. “It just gets your adrenaline going, then to play against a great defense like that.”
Florida (5-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) has won 15 straight games, the best in the nation. LSU (5-1, 3-1) had its 32-game winning streak in Saturday night home games snapped.
“Three points on offense,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “We just got to play better.”
Tebow completed 11 of 16 passes for 134 yards with an interception, and ran for 38 yards on 17 carries. Far from his best game, but more than good enough.
After a conservative start, he bounced off tacklers, avoided rushers and generally looked like the guy Florida fans have grown to adore and SEC defenses have not quite figured out how to stop.
Florida’s offense struggled to finish off drives and that kept LSU in the game. It was the fewest points the Gators have scored since Meyer took over in 2005, but Florida’s defense more than made up for the offense’s misfires.
“On offense, we didn’t execute the best but we played really hard,” Tebow said.
When he was done beating the Tigers, several of them waited around for him to finish an interview so they could shake his hand at midfield.
“He came out there and gave a great effort,” LSU defensive tackle Charles Alexander said. “He is one of the greatest college football players to play the game.”
The LSU offense looked familiar, too. The Tigers came in ranked last in the SEC in total offense and managed only 162 yards. They never even threatened to score in the second half.
“Those guys have a pretty good defense,” LSU receiver Brandon LaFell said. “We had a ton of chances, then we would get a mistake … Too many mistakes.”
The Tebow mystery — whether he would play or sit for the first time in his college career — raised the drama for a game that hardly needed a subplot to energize the LSU fans. The last time two teams so highly ranked played at Tiger Stadium was 1959, when No. 1 LSU played No. 3 Mississippi.
Tebow took a double-shot to the head — front and back — against Kentucky two weeks ago. He spent the night in a Lexington hospital. During part of the Gators’ week off, he was not even permitted to watch TV.
“It was a tough deal and I kept saying, ‘Would I play my son?’” Meyer said.
Tebow returned to practice on Tuesday, but Florida made it clear it would take all the time it had to decide whether their star would play.
“You know Tim,” Meyer said. “It was, ‘Let me play. Let me play.’ Nonstop.”
Tebow was cleared to play before he arrived at Tiger Stadium and anybody who watched him warmup, darting around the field and firing passes, could tell he was going to play.
With his parents in the stands, Tebow led the Gators out for their first possession. Florida was pinned at its own 7, and the crowd — almost all of it decked out in gold — blared.
Tebow’s first play was a simple handoff and he didn’t need to do much more than that to lead the Gators to a 28-yard field goal by Caleb Sturgis, and a 3-0 lead.
Sturgis added a 32-yarder in the fourth quarter and also missed a 20-yarder in the third.
If there was any possible sign that Florida might be protecting Tebow, it came on a fourth-and-2 play at the LSU 29 in the second quarter. The 245-pound Tebow is Florida’s short-yardage specialist, but instead of having him bull into the line of scrimmage, he took a jab step forward then tossed to Brandon James on an end around that was stopped for a loss.
Was Meyer trying to keep Tebow under wraps?
“We were somewhat conservative,” Meyer said. “Somewhat.”
He could be because his defense was playing great.
“We knew Tim would suit up but we didn’t know if he would play, but we didn’t care,” safety Will Hill said. “The defense knew what we had to do to come out and win this game.”
Tebow gave the offense a jolt with his scramble on the Gators’ next possession and then provided some power later in the drive when he stormed up the middle on an option keeper to covert a third-and-3.
On the next play, Tebow looked left, then fired a pass down the right side to Riley Cooper in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown. Tebow clapped his hands and jumped into the arms of a teammate to celebrate Florida taking a 10-3 lead with 50 seconds left in the half.
All was well with Tebow and for the Gators.
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